Tweaking the rules

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2011 – 9:45 am

Ahh, some football to talk about.

The competition committee — of which Ken Whisenhunt helps as part of the coach’s subcommittee in making rule-change recommendations — is considering a couple of changes for this season, which will be voted upon during the upcoming owners’ meetings.Committee chairman Rich McKay, GM of the Falcons, was part of a conference call yesterday talking about the issues.

The biggest one (at least in my mind) is changing the kickoff scenario. In part because of injuries being suffered on kickoffs, the spot teams kick off from would be moved back to the 35-yard line (where it used to be) from the 30. In theory, more touchbacks, right? But the rule change would also mean touchbacks would come out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. At the same time, the wedge block (which last year was reduced so only two men could come together at one time, instead of three or four) would be eliminated altogether.

You have to wonder if that would kill off long kickoff returns, or if it would make a major difference. One thing that would help returns? Another part of the changed rule would say the coverage players couldn’t start further back than five yards of the ball, preventing a major running start (and, in theory, cutting down disastrous collisions).

The other notable change would be the use of instant replay automatically on all scoring plays, so coaches would not have to use a challenge — which is already the way college football works. If that went into effect, the other correlating change would be for coaches to lose the opportunity for a third challenge. Right now, two correct challenges earn a third, but McKay said given that the third challenge is rarely used and because so many challenge situations would be eliminated because scoring plays will be looked at, it makes sense to just cap challenges at two.

A couple other notes:

— McKay said the infamous “catch all the way through the end of the play” rule would remain, meaning the Calvin Johnsons of the world would still be dealing with an incompletion.

— NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said even with the current lockout, in terms of the 2011 schedule “the plan is to release it as we normally do in mid-April.”

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13 Responses to “Tweaking the rules”

  1. By carlo7000 on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply


    i think they are doing evrything to ruin possible maybe in some years is possible to tackle a player just with everybody can be safe from injuries

  2. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply


    Since there seems to be a lot of confusion surounding it, could you clarify the rule change about hitting the QB while he’s in his throwing motion? I can’t believe they would really enforce that as written, unless Jack Lambert’s prediction has finally proved accurate.

  3. By Darren Urban on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    Mike —

    RE: Hitting QB

    To begin with, no rules have been changed yet. Everything has to go to a vote.

    They are considering including a passer “in the act or just after throwing a pass” as a defenseless player. It would be judged the same way a defenseless receiver is now. How it affects the play remains to be seen.

  4. By brad oneill on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    if kickoff is so dangerous why not eliminate it all together. start the ball at the twenty. after any score and for kickoff?

    personally i love the kickoffs, I have not seen the data on injuries but I assume it isn’t as obvious to he fans when there are injuries on the kickoffs because a lot of special teams players are only in for that one play and they are off the field by the time the commercials are over so their absence isn’t as noticeable.

    I also really liked the wedge and always thought that it made for some great football when a wedge breaker gave all for his team!

    but since we have started valuing quality of life post football for these guys, i guess we need to scale it back so no one gets hurt. football gets closer and closer to ballet every year. the biggest difference is no one watches ballet.

  5. By brad oneill on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    ps its a really bad idea to change rules this year from a public relations stand point. rule changes always cause a little dissention in the fan base no matter what they are. since they have a highly agitated fan base already I can’t see making any rule changes that aren’t seen as overwhelmingly positive by the fans. changing kick off and other proposals don’t seem to fall into that category.

  6. By Brian on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    The problem with the catch rule is that fans don’t know how the refs will interpret the rule. We can’t watch a football game and know wether a player caught the ball or not. We have to be told. Takes away from the enjoyment when you don’t know how to interpret the convaluded rules. Someone should put a quiz out there where fans judge ten receiving plays. I bet we fail because it is too subjective.

  7. By kristin on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    This is football. Its a physical sport. What it is not is duck duck goose. Oh wait…that may be too physical as well. I’m just sayin.

  8. By Mike Ellingboe on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply


    Damn, if that does go through they have really tied the defenders hands. They already call too many late hits as it is.

    I get that it’s a QB driven league but at some point asterisks are going to have to be put next to today’s records (i.e. – an acknowledgement of when sacking the QB was allowed or when WR’s could actually be covered).

    They need to cut to the chase and take the facemasks off before touching the QB is outlawed altogether.

  9. By Barry on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    I understand the reasons for the saftey of the player but all these “new” rules are getting insane. moving ball to 25 on a touchback…this basically changes all the records that have been broken by all player who have been playing by the older rules….it doesn’t makes sense to do this now. We are now making new players into “fairies” and soft because they are not allowed to hit or be hit. Its very hard to watch a sport you love turn into such…a “powder puff” sport. :grumble: -B

  10. By Rich on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply


    They are sterilizing the game !!!!!!!!!!!

  11. By Pheenic Cromartie on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    I hope no new rules pass that completely change kick-offs. Kick-offs are one of my favorite parts of football. Especially with LSH as our Kick-off Returner, you never know what’s going to happen.

    The NFL really shouldn’t consider changing too many rules. Like Brad Oneill said up there, rule changes might annoy the fans, and the NFL is already running on a thin line as it is.

    I know safety is important and all, but maybe they can find a happy median for everyone. I don’t want long Kick-off returns to be destroyed.

  12. By AndyStandsUp on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    What would be interesting to me about the kickoff change would be onside kicks.
    Would teams be more apt to try one since they’re moving up 5 yards (ball would have to make it to almost midfield to recover) or would they be more reluctant because of the 5 yard lining up change. (Not being able to get a good running start to cover the ball after 10 yards.)
    And by releasing the schedule as normal would seem to pressure both sides to get an agreement. e.g. Super Bowl champs Green Bay opening the season at Lambeau vs. Drew Brees and the Saints? Better get this fixed soon.

  13. By Eazy E on Mar 18, 2011 | Reply

    That Calvin Johnson rule sucks, that was a touchdown!

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